The seeker of knowledge, fear nothing here, the destroyer, everything
The incantation on Merlin's chest in Lighthouse in a Sea of Time
Tossing out the Goliath Chronicles, I am going to assume, Jeffrey Robbins knows that Hudson is a gargoyle. Happy Banned Book week! I totally friggin' missed it this year… This fic dedicated to all challenged books out there.
"What are those humans doing now?" the robin's egg blue female grumbled. "They have no right to intrude on our territory, Mentor!"
"They are not dressed as hunters, lass," the elder gargoyle, his skin the color of stone or faded wood, answered, "they mean no harm to our clan. They are merely passer-bys; they'll be gone by morn."
"Then why do they wear those concealing robes? Why do they stalk through our forests at night? It is mighty suspicious; we should pursue them," she answered.
"They wear the robes of those who keep the peace among the humans, let them be. They are merely monks, perhaps, passing by in prayer," mentor answered. "They bring us no harm; and we shall cause them no harm. Let us go on our way, and leave them on theirs."
"Look Mentor! What are they doing?" the female exclaimed desperately, pointing out of the bushy shadows. The monks formed a circle in the clearing. Their arms were tucked in their robes, and they looked around nervously…secretively. The older gargoyle was forced to look back as he attempted to leave.
The monks discussed among themselves, their whispers simply lost in the silence of the night. Together, they piled tinder up and lit it.
"See lass?" the elder gargoyle said, "They are only making a fire to warm themselves."
"They seem too suspicious to be making just a fire," she answered. She was practically leaning half out of the bush now. Thick branches were piled on the tinder, then heavy logs. The fire grew more and more massive, demanding more and more fare. A man appeared from the bush. He was worn out and panting. Behind he dragged a two wheeled cart, filled with…something.
"See! They are up to something!" the female proclaimed.
One of the monks…the one with the large rosary around his neck…pulled something from the top of the cart. He held up a scroll to the flames. He spoke some words in Latin…then tore the scroll, the female noticed the words on it were in English, in half and fed it to the half-starved flames. More desecrated scrolls followed, the pages of gutted books, then the broken spines of the books. Soon the cart was bare. The fire rose up…then promptly died, now denied its foodstuff. The monks nodded, folded their hands back into their sleeves and left.
"See lass?" the older gargoyle said. "They were merely burning text. They were no harm to us. Let us return to the rookery. Perhaps our clan members were fortunate in their hunting, unlike us."
The female grumbled and crossed her arms. Whisps of smoke seeped up from the burning ash…only to blown into nothingness by the autumn winds. The older gargoyle followed behind her.
"It was nothing lass, simply harmless…"
"Trying New York weather!" Hudson swore as he navigated the freezing cold…and wet…gusts of wind. "All you do is try this poor old gargoyle for all he's got. Why can't you be nice, unlike your earthly counterpart! YECK!"
A soggy Happy Meal bag struck Hudson right in the face. He tore it off his face, but the residue of ketchup and grease remained in his nostrils. He shielded his face from the stinging winds with one hand. "Aye, I'll it that that is your answer then. Very well then, I've got some years on these bones yet, and I'll keep putting up a fight with your insolence! Ah…"
A beach came into view and stone and iron gates. "Wait until the last minute to go easy on me? Eh?"
"Umph," Hudson said as he landed. A sudden gust had nearly taken him off his feet. Another gust struck the water, sending an ice cold whip of water across his back. "ACH! Spoke too soon…"
He rubbed at the coldness on his back. "Bloody weather…"
Hudson stumbled up the beach. The pebbles between his claws were just as chilling as the wind and water. He opened the door and was rewarded with the toasty warmth of a fire. Gillie barked happy.
"Good even Robbins, good evening Gillie," Hudson said. The German Shepard yapped, contented now that she was recognized and laid her head back on the couch. He set the backpack that he was so diligently carrying and protecting from the winds on a table.
"Good evening Hudson! How is the city treating you?" Jeffrey asked, placing his thumb between the pages of the book he was reading. The smell of wet concrete and leather was very prevelant in the room.
"Giving me the cold shoulder," Hudson answered and plopped down in a chair. He felt water seep into its cushioning. "Among other cold body parts."
"It has been unspeakably chilly for the last week of September," Jeffrey answered. "Though the Farmer's Almanac predicted weather such as this; quite a nifty little book."
"Perhaps I should read it then," Hudson said.
"If you like reading centuries of weather patterns and when to plant and harvest corn, then that is the book for you," Jeffrey said.
"Aye, I may like to know how kind nature will be to me when I go out for a glide, but I do not have the patience to read tedious and possibly boring works such as that," Hudson said.
"I don't blame you," Jeffrey answered. "It's not my cup of tea either. So how was my new book so far?"
"It was a good read. I felt years younger reading it, it was like my youth" Hudson said. He stood up went to the backpack and removed a binder, thick with precious pages. He handed the somewhat battered binder over to Jeffrey. "It took me awhile though to read it, but in half the time it normally takes me. Then the lads got a hold of it, and well, I didn't see it for a month, but they all loved it. Of course it would have been thoughtful of them to let me finish reading it before snatching it off me."
"Well that is quite good then!" Jeffrey laughed. He ran his fingers of its cover. He patted the binder. "Eh, a book that ages gracefully has not fulfilled its purpose."
Jeffrey could still smell the remnants of soy sauce and donut glaze from when the binder was in Broadway's possession, the model glue from Lex, the smell of the city as Brooklyn carried it about with him, and the smell of library as Goliath read it.
"Tell me, what is that book you are currently reading?" Hudson asked.
"Hmm? Oh!" Jeffrey said, not forgetting about the book he had his thumb wedged in. He held the tiny book up; it was even more battered than the folder. The unmistakable scent of sweat, ink, aging paper, coffee, and other books wafted off it. It smelt quite pleasant really. "Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury…first addition Braille copy, one of my most beloved books, not to mention the first Braille book I received. I always read it in honor of this holiday."
"Holiday? Another one?" Hudson blanched. "I'm sorry, but I am still not in touch with the customs here. There are just too many holidays...too many garish holidays...now. Honestly, I would have expected some blinding, garish decorations up by now to warn me…"
Jeffrey started to laugh. "Don't worry about it. It's an obscure holiday. Not a lot of people know about it, but I always take time to honor it in my own special way."
"What sort of holiday is it?" Hudson asked, scratching his beard.
Jeffery stood up and answered, "It's called Banned Book Week, held in the last week of September. Do you want some coffee? I have Irish Cream this time."
"Aye, a wee nip of something warm would do me some good," Hudson answered and followed behind Jeffrey. "Why is it called Banned Books Week? Aren't books bound? Not banned, or has there been another language change?"
"No," Jeffrey answered taking a small can of coffee from his cupboards. "Books are still bound today, and just as banned as ever."
"Banned?" Hudson asked, sitting down on a kitchen chair. The coffee pot kicked on with a hissing sound. Jeffrey sat down across from him.
"That book I was reading, Fahrenheit 451 is about book banning, and that is the removal of "undesirable" books from society. Fahrenheit 451 is a futuristic extreme example of book banning—book burning. The book says in the future books are viewed as threat to the current trend in humanity, and it is believed that books make one dismal and unhappy, and are burned on spot by 'firefighters'. It's illegal to own them, and even more illegal to read them," Jeffrey said. "Ironically, this book is very often banned for its view on a dim and dismal future. Not to mention burned."
"You're kidding?" Hudson asked as the scent of coffee grew stronger.
"You'll be amazed what people don't want other people to read," Jeffrey said. "Come with me Hudson. You too Gillie."
Gillie barked and trotted behind the two, both hers and Hudson's claws on the tiling making a rhythmatic click-clack. Jeffrey brought Hudson into a small room right before his bedroom. This room was small, but books were packed tightly in it.
"These are all books I grew up with and some of my favorite books that I can't just keep far away in the library, they have to be close, otherwise I can't sleep at night. You can say they're my nightlights, my dream catchers, my nightmare thwarters. They're what remind me every night that there's still hope in their world," Jeffrey said. "I can't read many of them anymore, but I don't have the heart or see the need to simply toss them out."
"Really?" Hudson said, picking a book off of the shelf. He blew the dust off of it. "What this book about?"
"What is on the cover?" Jeffrey asked.
"A boy standing on what appears to be a peach in the middle of the ocean, James and the Giant Peach," Hudson read out slowly.
"Ah, a coming of age story about a young boy who lost his parents and is forced to stay with his abusive aunts. Before he knows it, he's out in the middle of the ocean, on a giant peach with human sized insects as his companions, and life ends happily ever after in New York City with his new family," Jeffrey answered. He took the book from Jeffrey's hands. "Can you believe that this book has been banned because parents have found it 'too weird' for their children? Some people have even attempted nation wide bans of the book on the grounds that it's too weird. Not to mention the Grasshopper calling the Centipede 'an ass'. Children today hear worse stuff in rapping videos, and you know how often they watch television. "
Hudson took the book off of Jeffrey. "Aye, to me, in my lifetime, in this place, I can honestly say the prospect of traveling across the ocean on an inflated fruit is a novel idea at that, but not a weird idea…except maybe for the happily ever after in New York City."
Jeffrey laughed. He reached up, tracing his fingers along battered and worn spines, until finding another book. "Ah, this book here, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a real classic."
"Ah," Hudson said.
"Been banned its entire existence. People felt it caused disobedience in children, felt Huck was an inappropriate role model…drunken father, nonexistent mother, and good ol' Huck being an intelligent trickster…when it was first published," Jeffrey said. "Years later some people wanted it removed because they considered it a racist work, others because they viewed it as a dark part of history. None wanted their kids to read it, and most didn't want to see it themselves…it was just a reminder…not a teacher. In fact, in most schools, libraries, you can't even find the book anymore."
"Seriously? So much hate…for just a little book?" Hudson asked. "Did they even read the book?"
"Some do, but they don't exactly 'read it'," Jeffrey said forlornly, stroking the cover. "They just scan through looking for the bad things, reasons to keep their hatred for the book…biasness. They don't realize how Mark Twain treats the black man, Jim's one of the best men in the book, he's Huck's best friend. He's a person, and that's how Mark Twain writes him. Mark Twain was very, very much aware of the corruption in the world…and people don't like that awareness. But people just pay attention to what the 'bad' people in the book call slaves, and feel that that is appropriate grounds to remove the book. Other people want to act like slavery never happened that they want to erase, to cover up history. So they ban the book from their children, but how are children going to learn tolerance? Are they going to read non-threatening, non-challenging, happy, fantasy books instead? How will they learn to be friends with someone of a different color like Huck? To know that it's okay? To know that blaming a crime on someone because their skin color is wrong? They won't, and people don't see that, just like they don't 'see' the books. And the younger generation learns that instead...not to trust books."
"Oh," Hudson said, looking at the book. Jeffrey placed it back on the shelf. Jeffrey pointed to all the books on the shelves.
"Anne Frank, Goosebumps, Call of the Wild, Black Beauty, Gone with the Wind, Lord of the Flies, Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic, just to name a few, all banned, all challenged, all close to disappearing from the face of this world," Jeffrey listed. "And just because someone can't sit down and read or tolerate."
"All those books? People don't want other people to read them?" Hudson asked.
"That's just to name a few," Jeffrey said. "The list is much, much longer than that. And just as varied as the books in it, are the reasons people don't want the books around. People pity me because I'm blind, but I'll hate to say that they are the blind ones. I see the big picture when they see just...words."
Jeffrey sniffed the air. "Coffee's done."
Jeffrey and Hudson strolled back to the kitchen, Hudson still carrying James and the Giant Peach. Jeffrey took two mugs from the pantry and filled them to the brim dark coffee. "Do you want cream or sugar with your coffee Hudson?"
"Black's just fine Lad," Hudson answered. "I need a bit of nip tonight."
Jeffrey set the mug down beside Hudson.
"I don't understand, Robbins," Hudson said, "books bring so much light, why do people want to get rid of them?"
"I suppose it comes with being a book," Jeffrey said. "People don't like change, things that challenge them or their beliefs, or things that other people like. People point the fingers at books because they are there…just sheets of words and prints, paragraphs, letters…they say and do so much, but they can't speak, they can't defend themselves…they seem so helpless...so fragile in material…so people blame books for their problems, because books can't defend themselves, and therefore are the easiest targets...even if the books actually can help solve or address the problem that worry people. People, I guess, just find them threatening, or feel inadequate when involved with books. It's easier to blame than take time to know and work with."
"Ah, I guess I can agree with that," Hudson said blowing the steam off his coffee. "I mean with why people blame books, I don't agree with their ideas. I don't suppose I could celebrate this holiday?"
"Of course you can," Jeffrey said.
"Then could I borrow this book?" Hudson asked. "James and the Giant Peach?"
"Of course you can, you'll be the first person to read it in years," Jeffrey said. "This holiday, is after all, held for the books."
"Thank you," Hudson said, finishing his coffee. "I should be on my way then. Thanks for the coffee, I believe I'm ready to battle this weather now."
"You have a good flight Hudson," Jeffrey said, "and enjoy the book."
"I will," Hudson answered. "If the trio doesn't steal it out from under my nose again."
"Then it's fulfilling its purpose," Jeffrey answered.
It was a particularly quiet night down in the Labyrinth. The cold winds from above sent scores of people cuddling for warmth and protection down below. Everyone was in a group, gathered around fires or pillars, just quiet. Except for one...
He sat alone on a broken bench, sniffling. If not being alone made him stick out enough, he was also the youngest and noisiest person there. He kicked his legs, keeping his hands between his knees, and looking at the concrete ground.
"Lad, is something bothering you?" a voice asked.
He sniffled in returned. Hudson sat down beside the young boy and placed a fleece blanket around his shoulders.
"There you go lad, is that wee bit better?" Hudson asked. The little boy nodded. "Tell me lad, what's your name? Mine's Hudson, like the river. Have you been to the river?"
The little boy nodded, looking up.
"That's a good lad, so what do you call yourself then?" Hudson asked.
"Nan….Nan….Nano," he whispered.
"Nano? That's a nice name for a brave boyo like you!" Hudson said. "Oh, come on, cheer up! What's wrong?"
Nano rubbed his shoulder. "My mummy and daddy left to go house hunting. They had to leave me here."
"Aw, that's all right lad," Hudson said. He pulled the book from his belt, and showed it to Nano. "Would you like me to read you a story? It's about a little boy, who goes on a grand adventure to find a new home. Would you like to read that?"
"All righty then," Hudson began, "Until he was four years old, James Henry Totter had had a happy life. He lived peacefully with his mother and father in a beautiful house…"